a french garden


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A good year, so far

Back from the UK, I was curious to find out how all the rain that has fallen this year has affected the woods around the house.  Before I left some of the paths were still very muddy but the soil dries up quickly here.

Wild anemones

The wild anemones carpeted the ground under the trees still not fully in leaf.  They are more plentiful than last year and present in places I had never noticed them before.  They are mainly white and single but I enjoy finding the variants of other colours and the double variant.

Wild anemones

They are early this year and I would expect to find them at the end of April (See http://wp.me/p2cvii-6F ).

Path edge

The violets and lesser celandine stood out on the edge of the paths.

Dog violet

These are not the perfumed violets that I find in some places but they are just as beautiful.

Violet and butterfly

The yellow butterfly (maybe a Brimstone) seemed happy to accept the nectar, perfume or not.

Meloe violaceus

Always on the outlook for bees, I notice other things and I frequently come across the Violet Oil Beetle (Meloe violaceus ).  It is not a friend of solitary bees as its larvae find their way onto flowers and hitch a lift on the solitary bees that they encounter so that they can enter their nests.  The larvae then proceed to consume eggs, nectar and pollen.

Meloe violaceus matiing

I had never seen the beetle mating before and I was surprised that the female could scuttle through the leaves just as quickly while dragging the male behind her.  He did his best to stay upright but he often lost balance as it cannot be easy walking backwards with six legs that usually go frontwards.

I also noticed a lot of little flies on the female’s back and I have found out that they could be attracted to fluids that she exudes or they extract from her haemolymph.  This is an oily substance called cantharadin which can blister human skin.  This substance is produced by other beetles like the more well known Spanish fly (Lytta vesicatoria).

Pulmonaria

The Pulmonaria is abundant this year, usually with its mix of blue and pink flowerlets.  I read some interesting comments on colour change and pollination of flowers (more particularly on fruit trees) in Coloured clues; Mossy Mulch; and Easter Eggs at The Garden Impressionists.

Bee fly

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of bee flies on the spring flowers.  These flies are also parasites of solitary bees laying their eggs on flowers or near the nests of the solitary bees.

Asphodel

It’s not all bad news for the bees as the Asphodel are starting to flower and it has been a mild winter with lots of rain which has suited them well.

Lady's smock, Cardamine pratensis

The Lady’s smock (Cardamine pratensis) seems early and is more abundant.

Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea

The Greater Stitchwort, Stellaria holostea is everywhere and is attracting the attention of an Andrena bee here, probably Andrena Willkella.Fern frond

Everything is fresh and pushing through like the fern fronds unfurling.

Bumbles

This is a time of activity and as I walk I hear the bumble bees, not just in the flowers but searching.  They are searching for just the right place to build their nest.  I often follow them as they explore and vanish into holes but they always return to continue their search, never seeming to find just the right place.

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Summer approaches in the woods

Everyday sees changes in the countryside.  The warmth, the cold, the rain, the sun all conspire to bring about subtle changes that made no two days the same but there comes a point where our coarse senses remark a change that cannot be ignored.

The vibrant, frenetic days of spring are past and summer is approaching.

I feel this in the woods as the canopy of the trees fills in and covers over, changing the flowers that grow underneath.  A few still linger, like the Asphodel but the Wood Anemones have totally disappeared leaving only their leaves as witness to their presence.

Only an odd violet can be seen here and there along the path.  I shall be sorry to see them go but I took my first photographs of the wild violets in my garden at the end of March so their season has not been short.

The Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum commutatum) is content to stay in the shady areas under the trees and so is just starting its flowering season.

Once open the elegant bells attract the bees and bumbles who feast on the pollen which they carry off in their pollen sacs which become  stunningly white.  I tried to get a photograph but they were too quick for me, trying to manoeuvre amongst the long stems of the Solomon’s seal which are over a metre tall.

I couldn’t miss the swarm of bees over a puddle in the middle of the path.  I had read that bees have a requirement for water but I could not understand what attracted so many of them to the same puddle at the same time.  When I got closer I discovered it was not the water that they were interested in but the mud it was providing for them!

They are Mason bees looking for a supply of mud to seal up their cache of eggs which could be somewhere in the woods in a hollow twig or convenient hole in a tree.  Mason bees belong to the genus Osmia, I cannot go further than that with identification but I do think they have really cute eyes!

The butterflies still accompany us on our walks like this Comma butterfly ( Polygonia c-album) and

the Red Admiral (Vanessa Atalanta) which always adds colour in the woods.

The Common Heath Moth (Ematurga atomaria) enjoys flying in the daytime in sunny spots but

the Speckled Yellow moth (Pseudopanthera macularia) was a bit more frisky.  It is always lovely to have their company even though they are less appreciative of ours.

These two seem a bit surprised to see each other alight so close to each other when there are so many flowers to choose from.

The Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is in luxuriant bloom on the edges of the woods and roads and is being visited by an astonishing number of insects.  The bees and bumbles are visiting in substantial numbers.

Predators will always be attracted to to the abundant food supplies of their prey.  The European Hornet (Vespa crabro) did not find any bees on this fly past and rapidly left our presence.  They are an unloved species and their nests are frequently destroyed by humans, however, it is a protected species in Germany and a native European insect.

For me it just does not have the same appeal as a fluffy bumble bee clutching onto the clover flower and  sipping the nectar.


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Walk with me in the woods

Yesterday was cooler and cloudy in the morning but still inviting enough for a walk in the nearby woods.  As a bonus the clouds parted in the afternoon and the sun was warm.  There is always more activity along the way if it is sunny and the photographs seem more full of life.

We saw plenty of life.

The wild flowers are in abundance now.  The wild violets are still going strong but must surely be finishing soon.

New flowers are coming up every day and line the roadside.

Not even the dandelions can leave you untouched as they are the centre of attraction for bees and chafers.

The fresh green of new plants and flowers is covering the still open floor of the woods.

Inside the woods the flowers bloom in the sunny clearings that have not yet been shadowed by the trees which are only starting to open their leaves.

Th wild anemones take advantage of their days in the sunshine before the trees cover them with shade.  But today I notice a special patch with colours I have never seen before.  The wild anemones are usually completely white single flowers but this patch has delicately shaded flowers of pale violet, blue, pink and even some double flowers.

Every walk reveals a new discovery.

The butterflies cross our path.

The bumble bees are delirious with the abundance of Pulmonaria to provide them with nectar.

Sometimes the butterflies take a break on the ground.

I even caught this bumble dozing in the sun on a dry leaf.

So many of the plants are new to me.

This is White-asphodel, Asphodelus-albus.

It is such a majestic plant I find it hard to imagine it growing wild, I am more used to finding daisies and buttercups.  I would love to learn more about the wild flowers in my area.

Some are instantly recognisable like this wild strawberry but others are not.

Each walk brings a new discovery something we have never seen before, like these two bees mating in the Asphodel.  Taking time to watch and discover.  There is so much to discover.